The Saarc grouping that brings together Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been largely moribund since its 19th annual summit, which was to be held in Islamabad in 2016
The secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) informed the grouping on Tuesday that a planned meeting of foreign ministers in New York this week has been cancelled because of “lack of concurrence” among member states.
The grouping that brings together Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been largely moribund since its 19th annual summit, which was to be held in Islamabad in 2016, was cancelled after an attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists.
The strained relations between India and Pakistan had also affected Saarc’s functioning, which operates on the principle of consensus. India has sought to broaden regional cooperation through other groupings that exclude Pakistan.
An official letter sent by the Saarc secretariat to the foreign ministries of the eight countries on Tuesday said it had received a note verbale or unsigned diplomatic correspondence from Nepal’s foreign ministry that stated the informal meeting of foreign ministers, which was to be held on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25, “will not take place” because of the “lack of concurrence from all member states”.
Besides the strained relations between India and Pakistan, there had been a question mark over the meeting because of the status of Afghanistan following the takeover of the country by the Taliban last month. The interim setup created by the Taliban in Kabul has not been formally recognised by any country, and India has questioned its legitimacy as it is not inclusive and was not formed through negotiations.
In recent years, the strains in India-Pakistan relations have been reflected at the Saarc foreign ministers’ meetings in New York. In 2019, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had boycotted the speech of his Indian counterpart at the Saarc meet to protest changes in the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.